Subterranean termites live in underground colonies or in moist secluded areas above ground that can contain up to 2 million members. They build distinctive “mud tubes” to gain access to food sources and to protect themselves from open air. Termite colonies are organized into castes depending on tasks — workers, soldiers and reproductives. The characteristics of a subterranean termite are dependent on the termite’s role in the colony. Cream-colored Worker subterranean termites are 1/8 to 3/8’s of an inch in length. Soldier subterranean termites are of a similar body length, but are distinguished by their powerful mandibles. Solider termites have cream-colored bodies and brown heads. Reproductive subterranean termites are approximately one inch long.
The western drywood termite is California\\\’s second most important termite pest after the western subterranean termite. It is a native insect that has been here millions of years, mostly attacking trees along river washes and arroyos. In California drywood termites are most prevalent in southern California and the Central Valley but also can be found infesting wood along the coast, in bay areas south of San Francisco, and in the southern California desert. For more information on the biology and distinguishing characteristics of this and other termite species common in California.
Originally from China, Formosan termites are the most voracious, aggressive and devious of over 2,000 termite species known to science. Formosan termites are a subterranean species of termite. Swarmer Formosan termite are about 1/2 inch in overall length, including their wings.